Toews embracing the schoolyard pressure of All-Star draft

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Duncan Keith isn’t begging Jonathan Toews to be a high draft pick at Friday’s All-Star game fantasy draft. Brent Seabrook isn’t lobbying, either. Corey Crawford’s not angling for a job. But that doesn’t mean Toews doesn’t feel at least a little schoolyard pressure heading into Friday night’s selection show, when he and Columbus’ Nick Foligno will pick teams among the 40 available players.

“As long as nobody gets picked last, it’ll be all right,” Toews said. “I don’t think you can let a teammate be in that position. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”

That Toews — and not, say, Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin — was chosen to be the face (and name) of one of the teams speaks volumes about his standing in the league. But the honor means a little work for Toews, and a little pressure, too. This is only the third fantasy draft since the league switched formats for the 2011 All-Star game. Besides picking his team along with assistants Ryan Getzlaf and Rick Nash, Toews also will decide Saturday morning which of his players participate in which events at that night’s skills competition. And there’ll surely be some lobbying to deal with there.

“I’ve got to try to get some sleep Friday night and make sure I can get up at 9:30 a.m.,” Toews joked.

Joel Quenneville might be watching while enjoying an apres-ski in Colorado. He’s curious as anyone to see how Toews, the consummate captain, handles being a coach and general manager.

“I don’t know if he can afford the pay cut,” Quenneville said. “I think he’ll be all right, though.”

Patrick Kane is an assistant for hometown favorite Foligno, adding a little juice to the proceedings. In 2011, Kane was an assistant for Nicklas Lidstrom’s team, and Kane made sure Lidstrom made Toews sweat a bit — not selecting his buddy and roommate until the eighth round. The duo twisted the knife in Toews a bit by picking former teammate Dustin Byfuglien in the seventh round. Then Patrick Sharp went with the next pick before Toews finally got the call.

Still better than being picked last, though. Toronto’s Phil Kessel still has never lived that one down. Being Mr. Irrelevant in a 40-person draft of nothing but all-stars is no great shame. But you can be sure it won’t be a Hawks player in that position, even if Toews does decide to have a little fun with his teammates.

“As long as you don’t put a guy in a position where he feels too embarrassed,” he said. “I think that’s the only thing that would get on anyone’s nerves.”

And for the record, there are no players Toews would feel uncomfortable playing with. Even if a bitter rival — say, Joe Thornton — were in the draft pool, Toews doesn’t think it would be an issue.

“I think even if you do have a history with guys, for the most part in my experience at these events — whether it’s the media tour or the All-Star game or the awards — guys do a good job of leaving it on the ice and not carrying it over and making things awkward socially at some of these things.” Toews said.

There’s one other sure thing: Toews’ team will be the villain in this game. Foligno surely will have the Columbus crowd on his side, and Nash (who’s tied for the league lead in goals with 28) is public enemy No. 1 in Columbus after demanding a trade from the Blue Jackets more than two years ago. Toews hadn’t thought about that angle, but said he’d embrace it.

“Oh, that’s right, yeah,” he said. “Hey, nothing wrong with being the underdog, or being the team people want to see lose.”

After all, it’s all fun and games. Schoolyard stuff, really.

“I’ve kind of joked that I’m just focused on getting the right amount of forwards and defensemen and goaltenders, but I was kind of semi-serious about that, too,” Toews said. “It’ll be interesting. But really, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of ways you can go wrong. It’ll be a lot of fun.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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